India’s accused minister files defamation suit amid protests
India’s junior external affairs minister filed a criminal case for defamation in court Monday against a woman who has accused him of sexual harassment, his attorney said.
Minister M.J. Akbar filed a case against journalist Priya Ramani, the first of more than a dozen women to allege harassment in recent weeks from his days as a newspaper editor, Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur told The Associated Press.
The move came as dozens of members of the opposition India National Congress party’s youth wing clashed with police outside Akbar’s New Delhi home, demanding his resignation.
On Sunday, Akbar denied the allegations as “false, baseless and wild.”
The string of allegations began with a tweet from Ramani on Oct. 8 in which she identified Akbar as the man who had harassed her as mentioned in an article for Vogue India a year ago.
Since then, more than a dozen other women, mostly journalists who worked with Akbar or interviewed with him for jobs when he was an editor in Kolkata and New Delhi, have accused him of sexual harassment in the #MeToo campaign sweeping India.
In a statement on Sunday, Akbar said that Ramani and another of his accusers had continued working with him after the alleged harassment, which, he said, “clearly establishes that they had no apprehension and discomfort.”
Several Indian actresses and writers have taken to social media with allegations of sexual harassment and assault by their superiors and colleagues, mainly at work. Advocates say the digital outpouring reflects frustration with an anti-harassment law that has been lauded internationally, but has done little to change the status quo for Indian women.
On Saturday, journalists demonstrated in New Delhi demanding Akbar’s resignation.
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